Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Seven Factors of Enlightenment explained

G.P. Malalasekera; Bhante, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha overlooking Borobudur temple, Java, Indonesia (Ulambert/flickr.com)

Nun J. Kalyani asks the Buddha for wisdom.
Bhante, we want to wake up! What is the secret?

The Buddha has laid out the path and detailed it. It is there to be unpacked with the help of practitioners and the Commentaries and your own investigation. It's wide open. The secret is that there is no secret.

Hmm. Hmmmm. Hmph! Any other secrets? (Laughter).

Do you know about the limbs or "factors of enlightenment"?

We've heard of them. Let me look them up. What are they again?

The Buddha and the Redhead, arhats in Thailand (AF2899 Jon ,,nails,,/flickr.com).
The Satta Bojjhanga or "Seven Factors of Enlightenment" are:
  1. mindfulness (sati)
  2. investigation of phenomena (dhamma-vicaya)
  3. energy (viriya, persistent-effort, padhāna)
  4. rapture (pīti, joy)
  5. tranquility (passaddhi, serenity)
  6. concentration (samādhi)
  7. equanimity (upekkhā).
"Because they lead to enlightenment (awakening), therefore they are called factors of enlightenment" (S. XLVI, 5).
While in the second factor, dhamma-vicaya, the word dhamma is taken by many translators to stand for its most common meaning, the Buddha's Teaching or Doctrine (Pali the Dhamma, Sanskrit the "Dharma"), it much more likely refers to bodily-and-mental phenomena (nāma-rūpa-dhammā) as presented to the investigating mind by the first factor of enlightenment, mindfulness.

(This is clear from the four foundations, or satipatthāna, in the sutra on "How to Establish the Four Foundations of Mindfulness"). With this translation in mind, the term may be rendered "investigation of [material-and-mental] phenomena."
Sid came from the west to India.
In A.X.102, the seven factors are said to be the means of attaining the threefold wisdom, defined in Buddhism as the realization of three special knowledges: remembering past lives (previous rebirths), the divine eye, and the extinction of all cankers (full enlightenment).
They may be attained by means of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, as it is said in S.XLVI.1 and explained in the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse (MN 118):
  1. "Whenever, O meditators, one dwells contemplating the body (kāya), feeling (vedanā, sensation), mind (citta), and mind-objects (dhammā, mental phenomena), strenuous, clearly-conscious, mindful, after subduing worldly greed and grief, at such a time one's mindfulness is present and undisturbed. And whenever one's mindfulness is present and undisturbed, at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'mindfulness.' Thus this factor of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.
  2. "Whenever, while dwelling with mindfulness, one wisely investigates, examines, and considers the dhamma [physical-and-mental phenomena or Buddhist doctrine or both]...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'investigation of phenomena' (dhamma-vicaya).
  3. "Whenever, while wisely investigating, one's energy is firm and unshaken...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'energy.'
  4. "Whenever, while firm in energy, there arises in one super-sensuous rapture [joy, bliss, gladness, elation]...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'rapture.'
  5. "Whenever, while enraptured in mind, one's body and one's mind become composed...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'tranquillity.'
  6. "Whenever, while composed in body and happy, one's mind becomes concentrated...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'concentration.'
  7. "Whenever one looks with complete unbiased awareness on one's mind thus concentrated...at such a time one has gained and is developing the factor of enlightenment 'equanimity.'
The Seven Factors
Ven. Piyadassi Thera (BPS.lk, Wheel No. 1) edited by Wisdom Quarterly
The "Three Baskets" (the Tipitaka, or bundles of ola palm leaf writings recording the Sutras, Code of Discipline, and the Higher Teachings) called the Buddhist Pali canon, is replete with references to the Factors of Enlightenment expounded by the Enlightened One on different occasions.

In the Book of the Kindred Sayings, Book V (Samyutta Nikaya, Maha Vagga), one finds a special section under the title Bojjhanga Samyutta where the Buddha talks about the enlightenment factors in diverse ways.

In this section are three discourses or sutras that have been recited by Buddhists since the time of the Buddha as a protection (paritta or pirith) against pain, disease, and adversity.
The term bojjhanga is composed of bodhi (enlightenment or awakening) + anga (limb or factor).

Bodhi means enlightenment or insight concerned with the full realization of the Four Noble Truths that ennoble (enlighten) one, namely: the noble truth of unsatisfactoriness/suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering/disappointment, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering/disappointment, and the noble truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering/disappointment.

Anga means factors, limbs, or constituents. Bodhi+anga (bojjhanga), therefore, means the "factors of enlightenment, the factors of wisdom, the factors of liberating-insight.
“'Enlightenment factors! Enlightenment factors!' they say, venerable sir. Now, why are they called 'enlightenment factors'?” asked a monastic of the Buddha. The succinct reply of the Teacher was, “They conduce to enlightenment, recluse, that is why they are so called” (S V 72, PTS).

Further says the Buddha, “Just as, meditators, in a peaked house all rafters go together to the peak, slope to the peak, join at the peak, and of all of them the peak is reckoned chief, even so, meditators, the meditator who cultivates and makes much of the Seven Factors of Wisdom, slopes to nirvana, inclines to nirvana, tends to nirvana” (Kindred Sayings, V, p. 63). More

What's left of Siddhartha's seasonal capital and hometown, Kapilavastu/Bamiyan, Afghanistan?

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